Toll Road drives Pflugerville expansion | Crain's Austin

Toll Road drives Pflugerville expansion

Amy Madison, executive director of Pflugerville CDC stands on the steps of her soon-to-be office, looking back at the data center, Marriott conference center and Community Impact HQ  in the State Highway 130 Commerce Park. | Crain National photo by Kimberly Reeves.

The ambitious State Highway 130 has had its ups and downs, but no place has benefited from the toll road quite as much as the one-time German farm town of Pflugerville.

Former Mayor Jeff Coleman, a local State Farm agent, tells the story of the groundbreaking of the first of six segments of the ambitious 91-mile Central Texas toll road back in 2003. Locals gathered. Public officials proclaimed. Local mayors were introduced. That was, every mayor except one: the one from tiny Pflugerville, where the ceremony was taking place.

That’s how small Pflugerville was. Just a dot on the map. Just a collection of middle-class subdivisions, a town with no movie theater and no hotels. That groundbreaking was a sign to Coleman it was time to take it up a notch, to raise the profile of the one community at the intersection of two major toll roads in Central Texas: State Highway 45 and State Highway 130.

Great expectations

Coleman talked about his expectations for SH 130 as far back as 2009: "All of the zoning is in place, so a business can find the site online and see how it is zoned – that's all in place and ready to go," Coleman said in a city publication at the time. "We have a very aggressive city council, so if the right business comes along that we want to court actively, we will convince them that Pflugerville is the place to go. We want one domino to fall, and once we get that one big investor, others will see that there's a good deal out here. So we will be very aggressive with that first big user."

Amy Madison, who joined the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation in 2014, described the old Pflugerville, pre-SH 130, as a bedroom community of 24,000 that got up each morning to drive to Dell Computer or Austin to work. That was Pflugerville’s story.

“People didn’t even realize we existed,” Madison said. “But with the road coming through, there’s all the commerce that comes with it. It’s had a huge impact on our economy. Everything that’s out here never would have happened without the 130 corridor.”

Serious about expansion

Today, Pflugerville is home to 60,000. Early on, town leaders took expansion seriously. It now operates its own destination water park, Typhoon Texas, and Pflugerville CDC took 130-acres of Pflugerville-bought land and leased out as 130 Commerce Center with tenants: Community Impact newspapers as lead tenant, followed by a Best Western, Marriott Hotel with conference center, FedEx ground facility and other industrial space.

“We can deliver projects quicker than Austin,” Madison said. “Tenants appreciate that.”

Madison’s sunny assessment is one many share. Catherine Morse, general counsel at Samsung in Manor, said the toll road has been a huge boost to Samsung’s fab plant and expansion.

“We love SH 130 at Samsung,” Morse said. “Thousands of workers come to this site each day for work: 3,000 for Samsung directly at the fab and a couple of thousand at contractor sites for our outsourced functions. It has made recruiting easier for us, definitely, as workers now have easy access to Samsung from the more affordable parts of the region.”

Tiny Pflugerville, which was cut off from access to Interstate 35 due to Austin annexations, also sees the benefit of SH 130. Costco expects to open a new location on one corner of those two toll roads in mid-2018. Population has grown fast enough to entice Baylor Scott & White to break ground on a first local hospital, on Pflugerville Parkway. And last week, NewQuest Properties announced the addition of a Holiday Inn Express and a Tru by Hilton in Stone Hill Town Center, a retail space inconceivable in Pflugerville as recently as 2009.

"This area needed to catch up with hospitality uses. It's a great complementary addition for Stone Hills' retailers," Josh Friedlander of NewQuest said in an announcement of the hotels released last week. "As for the hotel guests, they will be within walking distance of an abundance of restaurants and shops suited to all tastes and needs."

Business Pfirst

Stone Hill Town Center alone added 1 million square feet of retail space to a town once best known for its local events, all of which started with a silent “P:”  Pfall Chili Chili Pfest, Deutschen Pfest and the Spring Pfling. Now Pflugerville is a regular addition to Money’s Top Places To Live and the sales-tax-supported Pflugerville Community Development Corp. has added both retail and industrial space to balance local subdivisions like Falcon Pointe and Sorento.

The tag line for the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., in fact, is Business Pfirst. Madison’s job is to lease the 130-acre industrial park owned by the city. It hasn’t been a hard sell. The time line from announcement to ribbon cutting in Pflugerville can run months, if not years, faster than Austin’s development process. Community Impact, for instance, was building its headquarters on site before roads were completed.

As for roads, SH 130 has had both ups and downs. Segments of the toll road near to San Antonio, owned by private investors, declared and emerged from bankruptcy. Early segments through Pflugerville owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, however, will soon see a $195 million expansion, from 4 lanes to 6 lanes in each direction. That expansion would be from State Highway 45 on the north State Highway 71 on the south.

September 18, 2017 - 2:59pm